Sea Shepherd sinks another pirate whaler: ACTED TO ENFORCE INTERNATIONAL LAW, WATSON SAYS

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1994:

GRESSVIK, Norway––Responding to the slaughter of 296 minke whales last
summer, in contravention of international agreement, the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society sunk the pirate whaler Senet during the predawn hours of January 24.
The S e n e t was one of 28 vessels that took part in Norway’s first commercial
whale hunt since the International Whaling Commission declared a moratorium on com-
mercial whaling in 1986. The Senet crew killed five of the 160 whales massacred under
Norway’s unilaterally declared commercial quota, while 12 other vessels killed an addi-
tional 136 whales in the name of scientific research. Mostly sold to Japan, the whale meat
brought the whalers about $12.5 million. The Norwegian government reputedly spent near-

ly twice that figure on security for the
whalers and a public relations blitz, after Sea
Shepherd founder Paul Watson announced to
media that the organization would carry out
antiwhaling actions on the high seas.
While Norwegian authorities spent
eight months keeping Watson under surveil-
lance, the S e n e t sinking “was organized by
Lisa Distefano, 30, the director of Sea
Shepherd’s Oceanic Research and
Conservation Action Force (ORCA-
FORCE),” a Sea Shepherd communique told
media within two hours of the sinking. “The
Senet was scuttled by Orcaforce field agents
trained in underwater demolition. The ship
was sunk at dockside. There were no crew
members on board. The agents left a Sea
Shepherd calling card on the ship to verify
our action.”
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson
informed Norwegian authorities of the sink-
ing by telephone. Watson also asked
Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem
Brundtland to restore the image she once
enjoyed as “the Green Queen,” author of an
environmental manifesto entitled O u r
Common Future, by bringing Norway back
into compliance with the International
Whaling Commission moratorium on com-
mercial whaling, in effect since 1986.
The S e n e t was the second Nor-
wegian whaler sunk by Sea Shepherd since
Norway quit the IWC in July 1992 and
resumed commercial whaling. The first,
the N y b r a e n a, was scuttled on December
27, 1992. In all, Sea Shepherd has sunk
seven pirate whalers and has destroyed 10
ships in all since 1979, when Watson
rammed his first ship, the original S e a
Shepherd, into the Portuguese pirate whaler
“It is with great reluctance that we
must initiate these actions,” Watson said.
“However, when nations do not heed the
law, it is the duty of concerned citizens to
enforce the law. Our actions,” he claimed,
“were an enforcement of international con-
servation regulations.” To date, Watson
said, “no criminal charges have been filed
against Sea Shepherd for any of the
attacks.” Norway reportedly tried to extra-
dite Watson and Distefano in connection
with the Senet sinking, but Watson said the
request was denied.
While the 1979 ramming drew
global attention, recent Sea Shepherd
actions have received little note. “There’s
been very little media over here,” Watson
acknowledged a few days later, “but,” he
added with evident glee, “in Norway
they’re going crazy. Now the other whalers
want 24-hour-a-day armed guards. But they
had this ship under guard,” he continued,
“and it happened anyway. We think they
were tipped off that we were coming.”
Distefano supplied further details.
Before the 1992 sinking she said, “We did
the reconnaissance and then we left before
the engineer came in. This time we did a lot
of disinformation, letting them think we
were going to do it at various different
times, so they had to spend a lot of time and
money on security.”
Watson and Distefano denied that
the sinking was timed to loosely coincide
with the publicity build-up toward the open-
ing of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer,
Norway. “It really didn’t have anything to
do with the Olympics,” Distefano said.
“We’d been planning to do this ever since
they resumed whaling.”
Watson trial in Canada
The sinking came approximately
two months before the March 21 first hear-
ing in the Canadian government’s prosecu-
tion of Watson on four counts of criminal
mischief filed after a confrontation with the
Cuban dragnet trawler Rio Las Casas o f f
Newfoundland on July 28, 1993. Canada
contends Watson was inside the 200-mile
limit demarcating Canadian waters, mean-
ing the Rio Las Casas was violating
Canadian sovereignity and fishing laws with
impunity; Watson claims he was 240 miles
out. The confrontation consisted of either a
bumping or a near miss, depending upon
whom one believes. Someone then lobbed a
stink bomb from the Cleveland Amory,
Watson’s vessel at the time, to the deck of
the Rio Las Casas, whose crew will be
flown to Canada to testify. Three of the
counts against Watson carry maximum
penalties of life imprisonment; the fourth
could bring a 10-year sentence. The
defense will cost Sea Shepherd an estimated
$150,000, nearly a third of the organiza-
tion’s annual budget.
“The Crown is trying to bleed us,”
Distefano charged. “And anyway it was
actually me who gave the order to throw the
stink bomb, and me who arranged the
action. I didn’t even consult with Paul,
because that’s the arrangement we have
with each other to avoid conspiracy
Regardless of the verdict,
Distefano pledged, Sea Shepherd will carry
on. Originally set for December 1993, the
trial was postponed apparently to avoid
bringing Watson publicity near the start of
the annual landsmen’s seal hunt along the
Atlantic Canada coast. The notorious hunt
on offshore ice floes was halted in 1983,
but the ongoing landsmen’s hunt drew 8,930
participants last year, up from 8,848 in
1992. Bad weather and lack of a pelt mar-
ket held the 1993 toll to 26,319 seals, but
68,674 were killed in 1992. Most are shot
from small boats, and since about 70% sink
before they can be retrieved, the actual toll
may be triple the reported count. Attempts
to revive the market for seal products are
made annually. Feeding seal meat to foxes
on fur farms failed with the collapse of the
fur trade. Despite a promotional invest-
ment of $500,000 by the Canadian Sealers
Association, seal pot pie promotor Richard
Pantin sold only 6,000 of the pies last
year––virtually all of them in Newfound-
land. The current sealers’ hope is that they
will be allowed to kill seals for their penis-
es, which the Poon syndicate has offered to
buy in any volume available, for resale in
Asia as aphrodisiacs. The shadowy Poons,
Distefano notes, have been among the
major players in the ivory trade for more
than 300 years.
“If they resume the commercial
seal hunt,” Distefano emphasized, “we’ll
be there to stop it.” She sees other fronts
opening, as well. “We’re afraid Alberto
Fujimora, the president of Peru, is also
going to resume whaling, because he wants
the dollars and the goodwill from Japan.
The highly endangered right whale winters
just off the Peruvian coast. Japan has put
out word that it will buy whale meat at any
price, and Bill Clinton, by refusing to
impose the sanctions that Congress asked for
against Norway, 347 to zero, has let the
world know he’s absolutely toothless when
it comes to marine mammals. Clinton and
Albert Gore,” Distefano added in bitter
summation, “have done more to drive
whales toward extinction than Ronald
Reagan, James Watt, and George Bush
together. The whales will be gone by the
year 2,000 if we don’t stop the resumption of
commercial whaling now.”
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